Charged Chats are a series of interviews featuring inspiring voices from the pros. What motivates them, what inspires them, and what can we take away from their stories to charge ourselves up.
Suchita Bali is a Social Media and Web Specialist at Health Sciences North and also pursuing her Ph.D. at Laurentian University. Her love for social media and numbers propelled her career in the digital communication field. Her approach is “all numbers tell a story!” She believes in taking a storytelling approach when working with analytics and research. Her day job includes managing social media and web platforms for the largest academic teaching hospital in Northeastern Ontario, Canada. In her role at the hospital, she has written the digital communication strategy, including a social media and web content management strategy. Through her Ph.D., she aspires to explore and discover some of the biggest constraints faced by Canadian healthcare foundations in the digital space. Her educational background includes an MBA and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Commerce.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get to where you are now?
I started working as a Web Developer for a company called Canoe Inc. (formerly known as Sun Media) right after I graduated from Laurentian University in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer science and Commerce (e-business). I gained experience working with some classic programming languages, including ASP Classic and ASP.NET, and some of the newer web technologies (at that time), including JSON, jQuery, etc. Other than programming, I also got to expand my skill set as a Database Administrator (DBA), which was more of an initiative as it was not a part of my official role. I loved running queries, optimizing our expansive database, and writing scripts in t-SQL. In this role, I also got to work closely with our designer on the team, which allowed me to gain a great appreciation for website and technology “design” elements.
In December 2010, I welcomed my baby girl into this world; I got to take a year off for my maternity leave. It was the best year of my life. As a young mom (just like any new mother), towards the end of my maternity leave, I felt incredibly torn between being a mother and going back to my work; the time finally came and I resumed working, with my daughter in full-day daycare. My daughter didn’t adjust too well to the new daycare routine. My maternal instincts took over and I decided to quit my job to become a full-time mom. The idea of a “full-time mom” sounded great at the time, and only lasted a few weeks – right away I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted to be there for my daughter but also wanted to keep advancing in my career. I was fortunate enough to make a choice to continue my education and enrolled in the MBA program at Laurentian University. Being a full-time Master’s student and a full-time mom to a toddler was no joke. It was probably the most challenging time of my life. But it all worked out. After graduating with an MBA, I decided to keep going with my education, and applied for a Ph.D. program at Laurentian University. Luckily, my daughter was old enough to start school and I was able to manage my doctorate a bit better than my Masters.
In 2017, I landed a position of Social Media and Web Specialist at the hospital. I landed this job mainly because of my research area in social media. I have been growing in this role for three years, and continue to enjoy expanding my career in this role.
My takeaway has been to stay true to ourselves and achieve what we set our minds to do. Plans do work out. It may take longer than anticipated, but things work out, and the key is not to give up.
Describe your current role?
In my current role, as a Social Media and Web Specialist, I manage Health Sciences North’s (HSN) intranet portal, external website, and social media platforms. This is further complemented by my Ph.D. research work which focuses on the use of social media platforms by hospital foundations across Ontario.
Social media is part art and part science; my passion is with the “science” element. I work with an awesome team at HSN who bring creative ideas to the table and allow me to explore the “science” side of this field. When I say science I mean performance metrics, tactics, best practices, and a deeper understanding of the technology behind various social media platforms. Social media is so much more than just posting a few pictures or videos, along with a catchy caption. It’s about understanding your audience, what resonates with them, and how you voice your brand as an organization in the most authentic way possible. I want to keep continuing to explore social media and other digital solutions for businesses.
How do you stay motivated when you’re going through a rough patch?
When I hit a “trivial” rough patch, the first thing that I do is I take a break. I listen to my body and mind, and if I am not in it, then I am simply not in it! I allow myself to take that space and disconnect. Some of the activities that help me disconnect include spending quality time with my family, mandala drawings, listening to good music, and practicing meditation and yoga.
There are days when the rough patches are more substantial and end-up being setbacks. During this time, I rely on two tools – gratitude & perspective. I follow a disciplined routine of keeping gratitude and professional development journals. Reading or writing in my gratitude journal puts me in a grateful state of mind; it helps me appreciate the abundance in my life, especially in times when I feel I am lacking. Flipping through the pages of my professional journal reminds me of my “why”, the journey I have been through, and helps me put everything into perspective. Lastly, but definitely not least, I reach out to my loved ones who have witnessed my growth. Often, we are much harder on ourselves than we ought to be and in times like these, all we need are words of encouragement from our loved ones who love us more than we love ourselves.
Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone looking to follow in a similar career path?
Stay on your path. Stay current. Keep educating yourself. In this day and age, knowledge is at our disposal. Dedicate some time to learn a new topic within your field or gain a new perspective from a different industry, follow industry leaders/coaches on your social media, and/or listen to podcasts. Investing in yourself is the best investment you will make, don’t be afraid, go all in, you’ve got nothing to lose!
Best piece of advice you’ve received?
I had to think really hard on this one. I am not sure if the answer fits because it’s not advice, but more of learning that I try my best to embody in my professional life. This teaching comes from my father: Let your principles guide you in your journey. Some of the earliest childhood memories I have of my father are of absolute struggle and hardship. Being a father to four girls, the so-called “societal” wave was against him, and it was an uphill battle. I have seen him go to work on an hour-long bicycle ride, even in the pouring rain without a raincoat. His discipline and commitment were like no other. I have not met anyone in my life who maintains that level of discipline. Now that I think back, it was because of his why – a better future for his four daughters. He hustled like there was no tomorrow. Eventually, he succeeded in life and established a good business for himself. He led his professional life based on a solid set of principles, all of which are universal, like integrity and honesty. In a country that was unforgivingly corrupt at that time, he chose a path of honesty. He is a proven example that it is possible to make a life for yourself without taking shortcuts or manipulating or exploiting people. My takeaway has been to stay true to ourselves and achieve what we set our minds to do. Plans do work out. It may take longer than anticipated, but things work out, and the key is not to give up.
I try to lead my professional life with his teachings. I, too, believe that the why and how are extremely important. As the saying goes – the way you do anything, is the way you do everything. I take my profession very personally when it comes to my attitude and approach. I am hopelessly committed to my job; I try to do it as earnestly, honestly, and fully as I can. When I fail to do so, I try to bring it all back to his teaching.
Anything else you’d like to say to the community?
Don’t get overwhelmed with the entire staircase, just focus on the next step. There are no right or wrong answers. Find what works for you, and don’t be apologetic for making it happen. If you feel misunderstood, just let it be, because the ones who will make the effort to understand you, are generally the ones who matter. It’s all about making choices that fully align with your vision for yourself and that includes people in your life.
In the end, I want to thank everyone who took time to read this. Reach out if you are reading this and have any questions or would just like to network. I’m in the business of connecting.